Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stores Should Remain Closed on Thanksgiving Day

During the era before the Internet and cell phones, in the late 1960’s my brother and I had an Akron Beacon Journal afternoon paper route for 4 years.

Akron Beacon Journal Building
Source of Photograph: Wikipedea File:AkronBeaconJournalBuilding.jpg


While many of our friends would have a leisurely walk home from school, my brother and I like any good indentured servant of the Akron Beacon Journal, would have to hurry home to deliver that paper.

Upon arriving home, we’d give our mother a quick update on the day’s events and then rush up to our  rooms and change into our paper delivery clothes.  After grabbing a quick snack, we’d head out to the garage,  grab our bikes and the canvas paper delivery bags and head out to begin the newspaper delivery process.

Whether it was a rainy or sunny day, we would have to ride about a half mile to go pick up our bundles of papers, which had been dropped off at the side of a local gas station.   

Upon arrival at the gas station, along with the other young Akron Beacon Journal all male paperboys, we would count out our papers hoping that we were not shorted and had the necessary papers to complete our routes.   If we were the unfortunate ones, and did not have enough newspapers, we would go to the pay phone and call the Akron Beacon Journal district manager who would have to meet us at some location with the one to two papers needed to complete our routes.

After assuring our paper count, we’d throw the unopened bundles of papers on the crossbeam of our bicycles and ride to the actual location of our paper route and strategically drop the bundles off in the neighborhood of our route. 

We’d then pull the newspapers out of the wired bundles and pack our large canvas paper bags full with the number of newspapers needed to complete a suburban block delivery. 

As we delivered, we would quickly walk hoping not to meet the barking dogs, the neighborhood kids who enjoyed tormenting those of us who were enslaved to John S. Knight and his newspaper company, and the occasional customer who complained about late deliveries.

The Late John S. Knight Publisher of the Akron Beacon Journal

This entire process was about an hour and half-daily routine.

But the process really did not end when we arrived home.  At night we would wait and hope and pray that there would not be that interrupting telephone call from a customer who claimed he did not receive a paper, the newspaper was wet, or worse yet a particular advertisement and its coupons were not in the paper.

 When the weather changed to winter, my brother and I would walk with our red wagon with its built up sides to pick up our newspaper bundles, load the bundles into the wagon, and walk to the actual route.   Other than an occasional illness, our paper route was a daily routine, which we never missed.

However on Sundays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, the paper was delivered in the morning. 

Due to the extra size of the paper with its added inserts and advertisements, our father would assist on Sundays and those seasonal holiday papers.   We would be up early in the morning and Dad would assemble the papers by driving us around in his  station wagon packed with the many more additional bundles of papers and inserts. 

This weekend delivery was almost impossible without the assistance of our father and his large station wagon. 

Other than a few arguments with our new much older 1x per week assistant, the three of us remained relatively civil to each other.   After a 5:30 AM  Sunday morning start of paper deliveries, we would be pulling into the driveway around 8 AM just in time to get ready for 9:30 AM church services at Immaculate Heart of Mary.   (Sometimes my brother and I would have the "honor" of serving as altar boys after the morning delivery!)

The big monster paper of the year was the Thanksgiving day paper and until the day after Christmas, the weekend paper was stuffed with ads from the departments stores of Polsky’s, O’Neil, J.C Penny, and Montgomery Ward to name a few.

Yes, the tradition of shopping the day after Thanksgiving was alive and well back in the 1960’s. Along with the merchants and the Akron Beacon Journal it was a profitable time.

However somewhere along the line, the Thanksgiving tradition of families getting together to watch the Macy’s parade, reading a morning Akron Beacon Journal newspaper, taking a turkey induced afternoon nap while Mom would clean the kitchen, and then an evening of eating turkey leftovers ended when stores started having their sales on the day of Thanksgiving.  

Now no longer a traditional stay at home family holiday, families gobble up their dinners and leave the family get-together and go off to shop as early as 10PM to get the great store bargains. 

Admittedly as happy as I am and realize that the Christmas holiday season is a real boost to the national (and now international economies) it is sad that Black Friday shopping has encroached on the actual Thanksgiving Day holiday.  

Now younger and more savvy shoppers rush through dinner to drag their parents off to the larger stores like Target, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy to get the best bargains.  

Unfortunately, the families of the merchants have their Thanksgiving holiday cut short to satisfy the national madness of the pre-season rush.  

At one time, most stores were closed on Sundays and then gradually with the building of shopping malls most stores opened up on Sundays.  And perhaps other than having shorter Sunday business hours, American consumers expect the ability to shop on Sundays.  As with expanded Sunday shopping so sadly goes Thanksgiving shopping. 

For the one national holiday with its spiritual overtones and its simplicity, it is actually a shame that merchants will not scale back on their sales times and just stay closed on Thanksgiving and give their employees the much needed family time before the busy season begins.

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